For those worried that Trump will remake conservatism or the Republican Party in his own image, there is an almost once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2018 to remake the Senate in conservatism’s own image. TEN Trump states will have Democrat senators up for re-election, while only Dean Heller will have to defend the Clinton state of Nevada.
These last two election cycles saw the Senate establishment fend off conservatives who challenged incumbents although we have made some nice additions in that period of time with open seats. The question to be seen is whether establishment Sen. Mitch McConnell can outmaneuver any outsider/conservative candidate during a Trump administration. It’s been noted that this was a “change” election at the presidency while the Senate and House members generally got re-elected. If the mood in 2018 is still for “change,” then McConnell might have a difficult time winning with fall-in-line GOPe candidates.
The 10 Trump states with a Democrat senator include: Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. So we have a couple western states as well as West Virginia where Sen. Joe Manchin might just flip the seat Republican on his own. And if those Great Lakes states flipped during a presidential election year, imagine what might happen in an off-year election.
As far as how those races might shape up, I can only speak for Ohio where Josh Mandel is looking for a rematch with Sen. Sherrod Brown. In 2012, Mandel straddled the party and conservative lines on his way to a 5-point loss. Since that time, however, Mandel was the most prominent officeholder in the state to NOT endorse Gov. John Kasich for President, instead siding with Sen. Marco Rubio. Another potential Senate candidate is one of John Boehner’s waterboys, Rep. Pat Tiberi, but Tiberi’s opposition to Trump has cost him (and benefited Mandel) in a state where Trump won by 8. http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2016/10/pat_tiberi_potential_2018_gop.html
So NeverTrump or not, I hope that conservatives can come together in these states to give Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul some help. If we can find candidates who can beat any establishment favorites and then beat a Democrat incumbent, then conservatism, however we define it, will not be lost.